Support SMEs no matter how big you are, says award-winning purchaser

15 July 2011

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15 July 2011 | Angeline Albert

The size of a procurement team should not be a barrier to encouraging the growth of local suppliers, according to the head of buying at the Universityof West England (UWE).

Helen Baker, head of procurement at UWE said her four-strong team had hosted seminars for SMEs in Bristol and Bath to explain good practice in tendering for public sector contracts.

“Just because you are a small procurement team, it doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference. It’s not just about savings. Clearly savings are important, but the function is also about the wider impact an organisation can make to the local economy and small businesses,” she told SM.

Baker’s leadership has resulted in the team gaining national recognition for its mentoring work in the community, which has also increased the number of small businesses supplying UWE. The procurement team won the Outstanding Procurement Team award category at the Times HigherLeadership and Management Awards 2011 last month.

This training of local small businesses has also brought benefits to Bristol City Council. “The UWE procurement team are always keen to collaborate where possible, willing to share their experience and learn from others to improve public procurement in the sub-region,” said Christine Storry, market development manager in the procurement team at Bristol City Council.

“These events focus on unravelling the complexity of the public procurement processes, where to find tender opportunities, and alerting organisations to issues which will affect them in their tendering process, such as equalities and sustainability. Approximately 750 attendees have benefited from these events.”

Andy Hicken, director of insulation firm Cabot Thermals – a small business that benefited - said: “After attending two of Helen’s seminars on PQQs, I must say that my fear of them has completely been banished. I can highly recommend this event to anyone who breaks out in a cold sweat when these dreaded half-inch thick questionnaires land on their desks.”

Other teams nominated for the award included the London UniversitiesPurchasing Consortium, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Westminster.

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